Well let’s start with a spoiler: I didn’t get to the finish line. After 35 hours, the pain in the back of my knee had become so great that there was no way to continue. Of course, I would rather have finished, but I am genuinely not too disappointed. Let me tell you why.
Firstly, I pushed myself physically beyond anything I have ever done before: the distance, the time out in the field, the sheer difficulty. Regardless of the finish line, all of these things were a level of magnitude greater than anything I’d previously achieved.
Secondly, this was – above all physical factors – a mental test. Of course I am in good shape – you can’t blag a race like this – but let’s be honest, I am in a club where there are literally dozens of athletes who are fitter and faster than me. What I have is a stubborn willpower to keep going, and I am very proud of that, because it’s the thing I have worked on the most in the last few years. I can see that having to stop is simply a further test of that willpower. To know when the game is up, and to then cope with that reality. That is as big a mental test as the race itself.
Thirdly, and this is really the key point, I learned how much the people around me care about me, and that was incredibly special. My support crew, the Brutal Events crew, and a wider community on social media. The outpouring of support kept me afloat in a sea of insecurity and doubt.
Let’s get to a proper race report, shall we?
Friday night was registration and race briefing, and familiarising ourselves with the marquee that would become our home and sanctuary for the weekend. It was also a chance to get our crew together and share the pre race excitement.
Up at 0430 on Saturday, I had porridge at the cottage before the fifteen minute drive back to Llanberis. We found ourselves a corner in the marquee, and I covered myself head to toe in neoprene. The water temperature was announced as “between 16 and 18 degrees,” which I interpreted as 16. Not too cold really, but I knew I would be in the water a long time, so I put on all my kit: skull cap, gloves and booties. With a Dryrobe round my shoulders, we all made our way to the water’s edge.
There were 24 starters for the Double, but with a Full and a Half Ironman race also starting at the same time, there was quite a crowd gathering by the lake. Red hats denoted the Double competitors, and we generally hung back towards the rear of the crowd – absolutely no sense in jockeying for position today. I got into the water with about three minutes to go and followed my usual routine: blowing some bubbles, acclimatising to the water.
We would swim eight laps of a triangular 950m route with a mandatory exit every second lap, and at first, like any other race, it was a wee bit crowded. I just tried to tap out a rhythm and stay out of trouble, but there were one or two clashes that kept me alert. (I should note that I often hear people grumbling about aggressive competitors in the water, whereas my opinion is that we’re all doing our best to move forward and stay out of trouble, but we also all veer all over the bloody place, so it’s not really anyone’s fault, and just chill out about it…)
By the first exit, we’d thinned out a bit, and I staggered ashore to the vocal encouragement of the support crew. I wasn’t cold, but I stuck to the plan and drank some hot water just to keep my core as warm as possible. People in green hats were coming out and re-entering the water as I chilled out and took my time – Zoe was in my ear, reminding me there was no rush, keeping me calm and focused.
The next two laps were characterised by what seemed to be a general lightening of the sky. The low clouds had been fulminating above as we started, but now the sun was doing its best to peek through, and I could see the peaks of the hills to the south of the lake as I swam out.
After another stop and a hot drink, this time washing down a few jelly babies, the fifth and sixth laps felt very different. By now there were only the Double competitors in the water, and I felt almost lonely. I was distracted from this by the weather performing a handbrake turn for the worse. It was very obviously raining now, and when I exited for a third time, the crew were all looking a bit miserable and sheltering under umbrellas and hoods. Poor bastards, I thought, before realising I had to cycle all day in this. Poor me! Steve broke cover to come and pour a little warm water down the front and back of my wetsuit – great idea that really made me smile.
On the seventh lap, I felt cold for the first time. Nothing too serious, but my shoulders felt a little chilly. I just pressed on, and nothing came of it. By the time I was on the last lap, I felt good, and the sun was once again making an appearance. I realised I had become a little obsessed with the weather.
As I got out, there were hugs from the support crew, and I already felt the sense of camaraderie and teamwork that would grow throughout the event. I stripped to my waist at lakeside and put on the Dryrobe that became my cocoon of warmth, and not for the last time.
In total, my transition took the better part of half an hour. It was funny watching Mark and Lucy – international sprint triathletes – getting all twitchy as I tried to eat some more porridge, and chatted to Thomas. Once again… no rush, take your time.
My plan was to get through two of the eight bike laps in reasonably quick succession, and then assess things from there. The bike lap was 45km long with 700m of elevation. I broke it down into three sections. Firstly, we left Llanberis and then turned up a steep climb before a similarly sharp drop into Waunfawr. I had to be careful not to go too hard up those steeper sections, and so I very deliberately went as slowly as I could manage as I wobbled up that slope.
The second section is a longer undulating stretch to Beddgelert. A slow drag up the valley, finished off with a lovely sweeping descent where you could really get down into an aero tuck and enjoy the ride.
The third segment was the headline: Pen-y-Pass. A long climb where the gradient stays reasonably steady at somewhere around 7%, but just keeps on going for several kilometres. At the top, a twisty descent back to Llanberis completed the circuit.
That first lap went well, and I had caught and overtaken one or two of the Full competitors as I went round. They were on their second laps by now, and I asked them how windy it was on the top. Not too bad, I was told. They were right, there was a breeze, but it was not really interfering with my progress. In hindsight, though, I think this first lap was too fast, and the fact I was catching quite a few of these other riders should have been a warning.
I stopped briefly at the kerbside after this lap to take on new water bottles, refill my pockets with food, and apply a big wodge of Vaseline to my undercarriage, much to the disgust of passers-by. I had been eating energy bars and a couple of gels but again, with hindsight, not enough. I felt great as I headed out for the second lap, but it wouldn’t last long.
On the long second section to Beddgelert, I started to struggle a little. The wind felt stronger, I felt weaker and, despite my efforts to look up at the scenery and enjoy the view, I found that my smile had vanished. As I approached the long climb, I was a bit worried. With perfect timing, Mark and Steve appeared from nowhere, bombing down from the pass in the opposite direction. Their plan had been to go for an exploratory ride and give me a little encouragement as we crossed paths. They obviously saw that I needed more than a friendly wave so turned around and got on my wheel, chattering away to chase the negative thoughts out of my head. At one point we were trying to name Bond films, and I got pretend annoyed at Steve because he wasn’t doing them in the right order. It was a great distraction, and the wheels kept turning.
They left me at the top to continue their ride, and I freewheeled all the way back down to Llanberis. As I pulled into transition and crossed the timing mat, I felt like I was in a bit of trouble. I saw everyone sitting on the wall where they’d been last time, but I needed to pause so I rode to the bike racking and then walked towards the marquee. I could hear them shouting to me, but I just felt I needed to get inside.
I know I freaked them out at this point of the race. My head was spinning, and they told me later that my eyes had gone. At this point, Greg really stepped forward and took control. He took all the time pressure away and made me take off my helmet – no need to rush, take your time. As the crew fussed around and fed me, Greg got in my ear and we discussed what had gone wrong. I hadn’t eaten enough while on the bike. I hadn’t compensated for the fact that I had been swimming for three hours before I got on the bike. I had gone too fast. Now I felt sick as I tried to refuel, and so we had to make sure that I kept fuelling regularly. Greg’s experience here was race saving. He has crewed before at this ultra events, and he’s an excellent coach. I listened to him, and I trusted him.
The analogy I later came up with was that of a car with a very small fuel tank. Too much petrol, and it spills over, but you need to fill up at every service station. This meant I needed to eat and drink small amounts constantly, not wait till I was knackered, then force feed myself into nausea. Good god, there was a long way to go. This was going to be Brutal.
On lap three, Zoe and Lucy were dispatched to ride behind me and make sure that I didn’t keel over. The steep first section was tough, but Zoe kept yelling at me to eat, and I did as I was told. I felt better knowing that they were close at hand, but still struggled. And then, like a light switch going on, I just felt better. As we cycled the long middle section, I just started talking again, and pointing out landmarks. We all breathed a sigh of relief as my senses returned, and we hit the climb up to the pass. I didn’t need telling to slow it down this time, and I tried to keep my effort as low as possible.
The rest of the race would sometimes feel like a bit of a tightrope as I tried to stay fully compos mentis. Although I did drop into the red again a couple of times, it was never as bad as this early incident. If I didn’t know already, then it had become clear that this race was a team effort. Without my crew, I would have already been on the way home.
On the fourth lap, Ben and Sarah were sent to keep me going. By now the wind was increasing, and I was having trouble regulating my temperature: roasting hot on the climbs, freezing on the long descents. This was exacerbated by the fact that dusk was now approaching, and night drew in as we climbed slowly up to Pen-y-Pass. The final section of this climb, after a 180° turn put my nose squarely into the wind, was 2km of pain. It was blustery, it was dark, and as an added bonus, it was definitely starting to rain.
As we reached the summit, I was glad I had my 1100 lumen lamp on the handlebars. Sarah and Ben had less powerful lights, and their descent was a little more heart stopping than mine from the sound of it. The corners were now familiar to me, and I felt reasonably comfortable descending. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with Sarah sticking on my wheel. This might be my race, but I am still a coach, and her descending was outstanding.
Despite the worsening weather, I had been eating and drinking at Ben’s constant nudging, and I actually felt reasonably good at this half way point. I decided to tackle the next lap on my own, but with the darkness now absolute, I would have a support vehicle tracking me around the course.
I have always said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, there is only inappropriate clothing.” That little maxim was being tested to the limit now, but I was wrapped up in lots of layers with a big waterproof coat on. I now abandoned the notion of eating on the bike, instead just drinking as often as I could, and then briefly stopping every twenty minutes or so where Pam and Greg had stopped the car so I could eat some real food. I was now weighing into savoury foods like mini cheddars and cheese wraps, and Pam made sure she was satisfied I’d eaten enough before she let me get back on the road.
The middle section of the lap to Beddgelert was very difficult this time with the wind in my face. Despite that, I started to feel quite meditative, as I trundled along in my little bubble of light. With nothing visible beyond the white circle I was chasing, and no noise above the roar of the wind, I had absolutely no distraction, and could just focus on my breathing, keeping my legs turning round, and trying to make sure I didn’t get carried away with the effort. At one point, I am convinced I saw a snake at the side of the road, but my light flashed across it so quickly that it very well might have been an exhaustion-enhanced stick.
The climb up to Pen-y-Pass was actually better than last time because the stronger wind was behind me for most of the climb. I knew the last section, after the turn, would be awful this time, so I tried to keep my effort levels low and save my energy. I was not wrong. As soon as I turned left, a cross wind battered me across the mercifully empty road. Gritting my teeth, I kept turning and faced into the storm. Slowly I kept my legs turning, alternating between standing and seated climbing, and just willed the metres away under my wheels. Pam and Greg were waiting at the summit with an extra layer to keep me warm on the descent, and they’d promised to follow me down to add their headlights to my limited illumination.
Despite the headwind, I bombed down the pass quickly enough to put some distance between me and the support car. By now I felt like I knew the road well enough to do it with my eyes closed, and it wasn’t far off that at times. This lap had been physically the hardest, but I felt strong, and psychologically I felt I was mastering the course, rather than the other way round. Little did I know, that was the last time I would be going up Pen-y-Pass.
As I sat in the marquee, changing clothes and taking another opportunity to eat, the wind and rain were drumming against the canvas walls leaving nothing to the imagination. I smiled to myself with a mixture of pride and insane masochism. It’s the Brutal Triathlon, not the Walk in The Park. Bring it on.
Steve came out with me for the next lap. Although I had completely lost track of time, it was now past midnight so there was no traffic other than the supporting vehicles of all the riders. Steve and I chatted as we rode out to the first steep slopes on the course, and I apologised in advance because I was riding up these climbs at the slowest pace humanly possible. Despite that, I was now feeling a pain in the back of my right knee during these standing climbs. It wasn’t particularly bad, and I thought nothing of it at the time, but it was storing up trouble for later.
At the top of the climb, a wet and bedraggled marshal flagged us down and told us that a decision had been made to close Pen-y-Pass as the road was becoming unpassable. Instead we were to take a short diversion to Waunfawr, then return back up what had been the steep descent, and return to HQ the way we’d come.
I will admit that I wasn’t sorry to hear this. Not only was the high pass bloody hard work the last time, but the wind was now stronger, and I had been dreading the long drag to Beddgelert into the wind. It transpired that this new out and back circuit was half the length of the full lap, so rather than three more laps, I would instead have to do six of these shorter laps as the weather worsened.
Despite my initial thought that this might make life a bit easier, it certainly didn’t. This new circuit was relentless, with very steep sections in both directions, and even the downhills afforded no respite as I clung onto my brakes for dear life, navigating my way down slippery roads covered in leaf litter. We now had 50mph wind, with horizontal rain biting into the tiny amount of exposed skin on my face.
With five short laps to go, I decided to go it alone for a while. I was feeling mentally sharp, and my eating had been good – I didn’t feel like I needed a chaperone, and wanted to just be in my bubble for a while. About fifteen minutes out of Llanberis, my light just completely died. Normally, when the battery is running out, it will drop to a lower setting, and then I could get myself to the support car to swap it for a fully charged replacement. This time, however, it just sparked off and I was left in pitch blackness by the kerb. I poked at it, but it was dead.
Greg and Pam had already gone by in the car, so I faffed about finding my phone through several layers of clothing and the two freezer bags it was wrapped in. I managed to let them know what had happened and they headed back to find me. I was a bit pissed off at this delay, coming when I was feeling reasonably good and just wanting to press on. After a minute or so of twiddling my thumbs, I decided to take the light off the bars so that it would be quicker to replace.
PING! The light came on.
I am not going to be able to adequately describe this moment, but it was quite simply the best thing that has ever happened to me. I felt like god himself had looked down upon me and said, “You look like you’re having a hard time, G. Here you go…” and flicked his almighty finger across my life. I got back on the bike with a spring in my stride, and felt like the king of the world.
This euphoria got me up the hill, but on the way back to Llanberis, I was hit by an overwhelming tiredness. Not just the general exhaustion that had settled on me hours ago, but a hazardous urge to sleep. It was like falling asleep in front of the television, and thinking to yourself, “Oh come on, there’s only five minutes of this film left. You can stay awake for this.” You get up and walk round the room, you give yourself a little slap, you sit up straight, but when your body needs to sleep, there’s not much you can do to stop it. That’s what I was facing. As I screamed down the slick descent, trying with all my might to concentrate on the road, I could feel my eyes drooping. Back on the main road, on the small climb back to Llanberis, I fell asleep a couple of times whilst pedalling, one time waking up as my bike crossed the white lines in the middle of the road.
When I got back, I told the crew I needed a nap. I needed to communicate that I was fully compos mentis, and that I wasn’t just moaning that I needed a rest, but that my body had hit a point of collapse. They believed me, and I was allowed a glorious twenty minute sleep, collapsing onto the camp bed and never changing position the whole time.
I awoke feeling refreshed, but the first thing I noticed as I sat up and rubbed my eyes was that the weather was now so extreme that it seemed to be invading the marquee. The walls were pulsating in the wind, the floor was sodden, and the relentless drumbeat of the rain on the tent had now intensified to a constant roar, as though a team of firemen were standing outside, firing a hose directly at my camp bed.
“Has it stopped raining?” I asked, weakly.
Despite this, Ben was fully suited up and ready to ride with me. We did the next two laps together, and he did a great job of making me drink when all I wanted to do was cling onto the handlebars with all my might. This really was the worst of the conditions, and he never flinched. We stopped at the turnaround point of the lap where Greg and Zoe were waiting with food. By now, my road stops consisted of a couple of swigs of flat Cherry Coke and a cheese wrap. These wraps were very dry, and the Cherry Coke would be needed to wash them down, but they were really hitting the spot, and I was finding them much easier to take in than anything else I was handed.
As we came back to the marquee, there was a big hug for Ben, and someone asked, “Do you want Sarah to come out with you this time?”
“Yeah!” I replied. “That’ll teach her!”
This lap was just as physically tough as the last two, but something crucial happened that changed the psychology. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it was getting lighter. With this low cloud cover, there was never going to be a glorious moment of sunrise, but the pitch black of night was definitely giving way to a deep blue, with shadows now looming on the horizon, and the roads just that little bit more visible. It really gave me a boost, and I felt more confident on the descents, allowing me to relax just a little. I even chatted to Sarah a little, whereas I’d been grimly silent for most of the laps with Ben. On the standing climbs, I could still feel the pain in my knee, but it really didn’t have any of the significance that hindsight brings. The pain was easily manageable, and I wasn’t even slightly worried.
With one final lap to go, I was keen to get on the road, and decided I should go it alone for this last one. Despite my enthusiasm, I felt a little dizzy, and I was made to sit down and eat some pasta. I was also promised a forty minute sleep at the end, to allow me to be refreshed before the run. This was a hell of an incentive, and I bounced out of the marquee into the now growing light.
I stopped at the usual pit stop, where Greg and Zoe fed me, then powered off up the hill feeling fantastic. Strava tells me that this was my fastest of these shorter laps. The combination of greater safety in the light, and my enthusiasm to reach my bed, propelled me forward.
As I arrived back in Llanberis, it was now morning, and the team had all come out into the wind and rain to cheer me in. They were so swaddled in coats and hats that I could hardly tell who was who, but the noise they were making was unmistakeable, and I was a little choked up as I rolled over the timing mat for the last time. It was 0830. I had been on the bike leg for 22 hours.
I was stripped off, and I dried myself properly for the first time since I walked into the lake yesterday morning. I wrapped myself in the warm embrace of my Dryrobe, laid down, and I was asleep before my head hit the rolled up fleece I was using for a pillow.
What seemed like seconds later, Pam was gently stirring me awake. Despite the fact I could have happily slept for another three or four days, I was pleased to see her, and a little hug was a lovely way to get my head back into the game. I gobbled down a bacon sandwich which, although it did give me hiccups, was easily the biggest thing I had eaten all night.
Although wary of complacency, I felt absolutely brand new. Ready for anything. I talked myself out of the cocky “this is going to be easy” thoughts that were straying into my head. “Respect the distance. You felt like this after one lap of the bike, and look what happened!”
The run route was supposed to be an ascent of Snowdon followed by eight laps of the lake, but as with Pen-y-Pass, the mountain had been closed down during the night as it was just too dangerous up there. At some point between bike laps, Greg had told me this news with great solemnity. He looked me in the eye, put his hand on my shoulder, and told me that I wouldn’t be going up Snowdon. He imparted this in much the same way as one might inform someone of the death of a relative. I think he assumed I would be gutted, but hand on heart I was nothing other than relieved. Instead the run would now be a straight forward ten laps of the lake.
The first two laps were going to be done with Mark, who was in full primary school teacher mode as he made me eat and drink on a regular basis. He was right to, because I started to suffer pretty quickly. The lap is a game of two halves, with the outward leg completely flat to the far end of the lake. Then the road turns back and immediately rears up for a long climb before we go off road and wind our way back through the woods on a muddy track that is strewn with roots and slates, and goes up as well as down before returning us to HQ.
On this first lap, I started to struggle as soon as we went uphill. My chatty demeanour of the flat terrain disappeared as I felt completely robbed of energy. By the time we got back to the marquee, my head was swimming and I was struggling to focus my eyes. Just like early on in the bike, I could tell the crew were worried about me.
I’d been a bit overdressed on that first lap so I wanted to remove a base layer and then put my coat back on. I tried – and completely failed – to communicate this to Scott, who was doing his best to assist me. I had a real moment of clarity when I saw the fear in his eyes. I could see what a mess I was, reflected in his face. Deep breaths. Food. Cherry Coke. Respect the distance.
On Saturday, when I had been riding with Lucy and Zoe, my mental switch had tripped back on after I had refuelled. The same thing happened again, and within five minutes I felt a lot better. I felt confident enough to attempt to speed up on the flat section. With Mark calling out the timings, we followed a simple one minute run, one minute walk pattern. And got all the way to the end of the lake like this. My confidence came back as quickly as my focus. This was going to be okay.
We walked up the climbs, and I jogged my way gently down the rocky descents. Safety first, but I needed to take advantage of these opportunities to make up some time. I am generally a good descender, but Mark made sure I didn’t get carried away. He was working some shamanic magic on me, and my mood lifted. When we got back to base, I didn’t want to stop, but I also felt I needed Mark to keep going with me. He went to top up drinks and food, and I just hung around long enough to make eye contact with the rest of the team, and reassure them that I was feeling better. The fact that I was thinking about them, and must have been aware of their concerns, shows that I was in a peak phase following the previous trough.
I might have been tired, but I could do the maths. I knew that sticking to this pace would bring me to the finish line just after 0100, and that was the cut off. However, Greg had spoken to the race crew, and we were reassured that they would keep the finish area open as long as we kept making forward progress. This made me feel better, as I wasn’t confident I could maintain this pace into the night, but with the time pressure slackened, I felt like this was going to be okay. I would keep putting one foot in front of the other until I got to the end.
Mark caught me up quickly enough, and we continued the run-walk strategy on the flat half. As we walked up the big hill, my spirits were good, and I dare say I was even getting a bit chatty. The discomfort in the back of my knee was now becoming more noticeable, but any significance is in hindsight. At the times, I still didn’t think much of it.
Coming to the end of the lap, Mark needed to rest. He is a world class sprint triathlete, but this is almost a different sport, and we’d gone a long way. This had been his longest ever run, although I did point out that we’d only actually been running for about fifteen bloody minutes of the last five hours. Joking aside, I really wanted him to stay with me, as I felt I was really relying on him, but we reasoned I would need him more later on, and that Zoe and Lucy would be more than adequate replacements.
We went out mob handed for the fourth lap. Zoe was fully briefed and took Mark’s role of making sure I kept to plan and – more importantly – kept eating and drinking. Lucy was there to keep me awake – I wouldn’t want to miss the inevitable comedy moment when she fell over and went arse over tit. A tremendous athlete she is, but she can’t run off road for shit. Thomas was also along for a lap, which was his reward for being so patient and supportive through the day and night. He’s only twelve, but he’d slotted in well with a group of tired and frazzled adults, and had contributed a great deal to the effort. On some of those bike laps through the night, the lure of a cuddle from Pam and The Boy was the incentive that got me back to the marquee.
As we run-walked along the flat section, we were laughing and joking, and all seemed to be well. Then, as we approached the turnaround point, I felt a sharp pain right at the top of my calf, where the fibres feed into the knee. I stopped running, thinking I had cramp, and walked. No alarm at this point, I knew we could walk for a while and assumed it would wear off with a bit of a poke.
Continuing to limp forwards, it wasn’t going away, and when we reached the start of the climb a few minutes later, I was faced with a dilemma. Should I stop and try to get this sorted, or just power through it. We decided to take a pause, and Lucy administered some proficient massage, hitting the spot with her thumb. I ate and drank, and even swallowed a couple of salt tablets that we were kindly offered by another runner who was lapping me as we faffed around.
At this point, I was really starting to panic. If it was cramp, why was it still hurting? Why wasn’t it going away? We pressed on up the hill at a snail’s pace as I limped along, trying and failing to find a comfortable stride pattern. I kept apologising to Thomas for ruining his lap, but inside I was getting increasingly angry with myself that I couldn’t get myself working again. This lap was taking forever. Apart from anything, I was now going to be well outside the time cut off, so I was stressing about that, but I had now convinced myself that someone at HQ – somehow – would be able to fix me, and so all I had to do was get back there for some miracle cure.
By now, Ben, Greg and Mark had arrived to check on us, and we were tackling the rocky section of the run with painfully slow progress. They were all chatting away and trying to make me feel better, but I just felt completely alone now as the realisation was dawning on me that this wasn’t going to happen. I could barely move forward, and just wanted to cry. The irony being that I felt fresh as a daisy by now, as I had essentially been resting for an hour. My mind was completely clear, and I could see no way to the finish line.
By the time we got to HQ, I was completely depressed. I got down onto the camp bed where I had slept so soundly that morning, and Lucy got stuck into the muscle. It really hurt. By this time, I’d had a couple of hours to come to terms with the situation, and this “miracle cure” was the last chance. It was obvious that it wasn’t working, and so… I stopped.
By now I’d gone through the emotional wrench, and this just felt like a cold, logical step. I don’t feel like I ever made a decision to stop. I just had to. I think this has helped me come to terms with it in the days since. I had already cycled through the stages of grief during that endless lap, so I was already at acceptance.
I went to the timing table and found the event crew to formally withdraw from the race. They were sympathetic that I had managed to persevere through the carnage of the night but fallen at this late stage. I still felt okay, and was at peace with the situation, until Thomas came and grabbed me for a tearful hug. I had spent so long in my head, coming to terms with this, that I hadn’t even realised the emotional impact it would have on everyone else. The Boy’s tears pushed me over the edge, and we had a little cry. Looking around the tent, the team looked dejected and upset, and I had a surge of guilt. They had put themselves through a gruelling weekend just to support my folly, and we’d not made it to the finish line. There were more hugs and tears, but I reassured everyone that I was okay – I really was – and everyone relaxed a little.
I have said a few times here that this was a team effort, and there’s no doubt that the whole team bonded and came together in pursuit of a single purpose. It was an emotional weekend for all of us. Huge thanks to Pam and Thomas, Zoe, Greg, Mark, Lucy, Ben, Steve, Sarah, Scott and Elaine.
One of the things I have reflected since the race is that these endurance events are, by their very nature, testing you to your very limits. It’s hardly surprising that sometimes they stretch you beyond breaking point. It would be more unusual if they didn’t. You learn something new every time you put yourself in that jeopardy. I think that’s maybe why I do this. I don’t feel like there is “unfinished business” but I do feel that we learned a lot, and there are things we could do differently next time, most notably around nutrition and pacing early on in the race.
I also feel like I have found my tribe. These ultra-endurance people – borderline insane though they undoubtedly are – are my kind of people. This is what I do now.